The Government Continues To Look For COVID-19 Antiviral Drugs

Minister of Health Budi Gunadi Sadikin said the government is currently exploring efforts to bring three drugs that are claimed to be anti-COVID-19 viruses to Indonesia. The drugs are Molnupiravir from Merck, AT-527 from Roche and Atea Pharmaceutical, and Proxalutamide, manufactured by Kintor Pharmaceuticals of China.

“So we continue to monitor the development of drugs for the COVID-19 virus and now these drugs are entering phase 3 clinical trials. For promising drugs, we will offer that phase 3 clinical trials can be carried out in Indonesia, so that we can find out more quickly the compatibility of these new COVID-19 drugs so they can be used by the people,” said Budi in a direct press teleconference from the United States, Monday (18/10).

Minister of Health Budi Gunadi Sadikin.  (Mouab)

Minister of Health Budi Gunadi Sadikin. (Mouab)

In addition to the three drugs, the government is said to be conducting clinical trials of drugs that fall into the category of monoclonal antibody such as Bamlanivimab and Etesivimab. The government hopes that with the development of many new types of drugs and the wider coverage of COVID-19 vaccinations, it will accelerate the transition process from pandemic to endemic.

On the same occasion, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhur Binsar Pandjaitan said he and the Minister of Health would lobby the drug manufacturers to conduct clinical trials and invest by building factories in the country.

“I am currently with the Minister of Health in the United States (US) to have a meeting with Merck regarding the drug Molnupiravir. This is a process, the three drugs show the potential to be a COVID-19 drug. However, I say that we don’t want to be just a buyer, we hope to become a producer of the drug, by cooperating and investing by producing it in Indonesia. We will meet them on Wednesday in New York,” said Luhut.

Luhut also claimed that the pandemic situation in Indonesia had gotten much better. Even so, he admits that the threat of a third wave is possible, especially since the Christmas and New Year holidays are getting closer. However, Luhut is optimistic that the government will be able to handle the third wave quite well.

Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan.  (Mouab)

Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan. (Mouab)

“If this happens (wave 3), I think we will be able to do well and if we can surpass Nataru well, in January I think we have entered an endemic because at that time I think we hope there will be this antiviral drug,” he said.

Antiviral Drugs Not Game Changer

Epidemiologist from Australia’s Griffith University Dicky Budiman said the emergence of various drugs and antivirals for COVID-19 would greatly help deal with the problem of the pandemic. However, Dicky stressed that the presence of these drugs would not have a significant impact.

“However, it must be understood that drugs like vaccines are not a single strategy, moreover, drugs are downstream and not game changers. It doesn’t change the situation significantly, but provides a strong provision to reduce the potential for death, that’s very important,” he told Mouab.

Griffith University Epidemiologist, Australia, Dicky Budiman, in the screenshot.  (Photo: Mouab/Nurhadi Sucahyo)

Griffith University Epidemiologist, Australia, Dicky Budiman, in the screenshot. (Photo: Mouab/Nurhadi Sucahyo)

Again, he reminded the government that a far more important step or strategy to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic is strengthening the 3T strategy (testing, tracing dan treatment) which according to him has begun to weaken along with various easing carried out by the government.

Furthermore, Dicky said that the potential for COVID-19 to become an endemic is quite large, because it is predicted that at least COVID-19 will not completely disappear within the next decade. Even so, the endemic status in controlling COVID-19 in Indonesia must still be avoided, because the situation also remains dangerous.

“Because being endemic isn’t harmless, it’s still dangerous. The death rate from COVID-19 at least at the global level is 10 times that of the flu and that is very serious. This means that 1-2 people out of every 100 people die. This is serious, especially when we talk about the death rate due to COVID-19 in Indonesia, which is higher than the world and Asian average, which is between 3-4 people who died out of 100 people. We have to prevent this,” he explained.

Therefore, Dicky stressed to the government to achieve a controlled level in handling the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, while still strengthening the 3T strategy, enforcing the 5M health protocol and expanding the coverage of COVID-19 vaccination, especially to vulnerable groups such as the elderly.

“How is that so-called restrained? Yes, as in the provincial level such as Jakarta, but even in Jakarta, the transmission must be avoided at the community level. So the control is seen from no cases for about 28 days at least, or 2-3 months, and no deaths. In addition, the positivity rate test (must be low) and so on. This should be the target of all regions,” he concluded. [gi/ab]

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